Oyo India staff seek adequate compensation, may move court

NEW DELHI: After Oyo Hotels & Homes announced its employees on the leave with limited benefits (LwLB) plan in India will have to either opt for a voluntary separation programme (VSP) from the company or continue with the existing plan till February, 2021 earlier this month, some impacted employees across Indian cities have banded together on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook and told ET they are seeking adequate compensation in line with retrenchment benefits paid out in India and are considering pursuing legal remedies on the matter.

In a response to ET’s queries, Oyo’s global chief human resources officer Dinesh Ramamurthi said Oyo India had to place approximately 2000 on roll employees on the leave with limited benefits plan in April out of which 98% of employees have accepted one of the two options.

Ramamurthi said 70% of the employees have accepted VSP and 28% have accepted LwLB and only 2% have either not accepted any of the two options or not responded or sought an extension due to logistical or personal reasons. He also told ET the company has provided notice period pay as per contract terms of individual employees besides extending ‘several other benefits.’

After announcing pay cuts in fixed compensation of up to 25% in April, Oyo had put some employees on LwLB for four months from May. On Tuesday, Oyo began sending ‘cessation of employment’ emails to employees who had not chosen one of the two options. Ramamurthi said the company has no choice since LwLB and VSP has to be requested by the employee and the company has to send the ‘discharge simpliciter.’

“We have consulted a lawyer and we are told we can challenge the termination. Oyo needs to give us retrenchment benefits as per laws if we are being terminated. How will we survive with a month’s salary? Our group of employees who were put on LwLB on WhatsApp had about 250 people and now it is about 160 as others started looking out,” said Mansi Shah who worked at Oyo as a venue manager in Hyderabad.

Justice for Oyo employees is the other group on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Bhupinder Thakur, the project head for Uttar Pradesh at Oyo, who was put on LwLB said employees who did not choose one of the two options are not happy with the assistance provided so far and had raised concerns with the human resources teams and the management. “Oyo says it is facing a cash crunch but it is also restoring salaries and giving appraisals and promotions,” he said.

Ramamurthi said the notice period pay given to employees has varied as per the terms of contracts of individual employees. “For some employees, it is three months. For some employees, one month and for some, longer than three months. We would also like to clarify while we did go ahead with our annual appraisal cycle, the objective was to review progress of employees and share feedback. For some exceptional performers, while promotions were announced, there were no salary appraisals this year across bands. Also we as an organization are yet to decide on variable pay even for retained employees, which too will depend upon the business recovery situation,” he added.

In the blog post issued on September 4, Oyo said for employees opting for voluntary separation, it is offering a cash benefit equivalent to their notice pay based on their last drawn compensation in March. They were also given a choice to cancel up to 25% of their unvested RSUs and get additional cash benefit equal to 25% of their March 2020 drawn fixed salary. Oyo said it will continue to provide healthcare coverage of the current corporate health insurance policy up to January 25, 2021 besides providing career transition support through ABC Consultants.

According to labour and employment law partner Atul Gupta from Trilegal, there is a mandatory requirement in law to pay retrenchment compensation of 15 days per year or part thereof in excess of six months to terminated workmen level employees which can’t be replaced by soft benefits.

“Redundancy is job roles specific right now. People have taken a hit at all levels. Both parties sign the employment contract. If the terms of the contract have not been met and respected, either of the affected parties have recourse to take legal action,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder, TeamLease Services.

In mails to employees accessed by ET, the company stated on Tuesday: “Under the constrained circumstances we are pained to share that we are left with no other alternative but to regretfully inform you that your employment with the company will cease with effect from September 22.”

Emails to at least three separate employees stated they will be paid one month’s fixed salary being the full and final payout for cessation of their employment. Oyo communicated the company will continue to provide healthcare coverage and the benefits in relation to the deeply discounted stock options will continue to be available as it had specified previously.

“When the organization knew that some employees were being put on the leave with limited benefits plan from May, what was the point of deducting 25% of their pay in April. The VSP is voluntary. But overtime people realised it is forced. Because people started getting calls on an everyday or alternate basis and different strategies were tried to make us accept one of these two options,” said an employee on condition of anonymity.

Another employee from Gurgaon said she is in severe financial stress and was told by the human resources team member she would not be given an experience or recommendation letter by the company after her services were terminated.

“I would like to clarify 100% of employees will receive recommendation and experience letters. Let me state unequivocally that there is no confusion on it,” Ramamurthi said.

Over the past four to six months, globally laid off employees of Oyo in markets like the UK and Japan had also come together on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to share grievances. Oyo Victims Network was one such group on Facebook.

Oyo India staff seek adequate compensation, may move court Oyo India staff seek adequate compensation, may move court Reviewed by TechCO on 9/25/2020 Rating: 5

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